Skip to main content

Full text of "Over the brazier"

See other formats


9^9 

OzT^VER  THE  BRAZIER 
"  iiY  ROBERT  GRAVES 


THE    POETRY    BOOKSHOP 


OVER  THE  BRAZIER 
BY  ROBERT  GRAVES 


LONDON  -  THE  POETRY 
BOOKSHOP.  35  DEVONSHIRE 
ST..    THEOBALDS    RD.    W.C.I 


Poetry  by  the  Same  A  uthor 

FAIRIES     AND     FUSILIERS 
(William   Heinemann  1917) 


COUNTRY     SENTIMENT 
(Martin  Seeker:     1920^ 


First    Printed    1916 
Second    Impression    1917 
Reprinted    1920 


FOREWORD  TO  NEW  EDITION 

When  these  poems,  written  between 
the  ages  of  fourteen  and  twenty, 
first  appeared,  1  was  serving  in 
France  and  had  no  leisure  for 
getting  the  final  proofs  altogether  as 
I  wanted  them.  The  same  year,  but 
too  late,  I  decided  on  several 
alterations  in  the  text,  including  the 
suppression  of  two  small  poems 
inexcusable  even  as  early  work. 
These  amendations  appear  in  this 
new  edition,  but  I  have  left  the  bulk 
of  the  book  as  it  stood. 

Robert  Graves. 


Harlech, 

North  \\^ales. 


THE  POET  IN  THE  NURSERY 

The  youngest  poet  down  the  shelves  was  fumbling 

In  a    dim  library,  just  behind  the  chair 
From  which  the  ancient  poet  was  mum-mumbling 

A  song  about  some  Lovers  at  a  Fair, 
Pulling  his  long  white  beard  and  gently  grumbling 

That  rhymes  were  beastly  things  and  never  there. 

And  as  I  groped,  the  whole  time  I  was  thinking 
About  the  tragic  poem  I'd  been  writing — 

An  old  man's  life  of  beer  and  whisky  drinking, 
His  years  of  kidnapping  and  wicked  fighting; 

And  how  at  last,  into  a  fever  sinking. 

Remorsefully  he  died,  his  bedclothes  biting. 

But  suddenly  I  saw  the  bright  green  cover 
Of  a  thin  pretty  book  right  down  below ; 

I  snatched  it  up  and  turned  the  pages  over, 
To  find  it  full  of  poetry,  and  so 

Put  it  down  my  neck  with  quick  hands  like  a  lover 
And  turned  to  watch  if  the  old  man  saw  it  go. 

The  book  was  full  of  funny  muddling  mazes 

Each  rounded  off  into  a  lovely  song, 
And  most  extraordinary  and  monstrous  phrases 

Knotted  with  rhymes  like  a  slave-driver's  thong, 
And  metre  twisting  like  a  chain  of  daisies 

With  great  bigsplendid  words  a  sentence  long. 

I  took  the  book  to  bed  with  me  and  gloated. 

Learning  the  lines  that  seemed  to  sound  most  grand, 

So  soon  the  pretty  emerald  green  was  coated 

With  jam  and  greasy  marks  from  my  hot  hand, 

While  round  the  nursery  for  long  months  there  flfoated 
Wonderful  words  no  one  could  understand. 


PART  I.— Poems  Mostly  Written 
at  Charterhouse      —      1910-1914 


STAR-TALK, 

*'  Are  you  awake,  Gemelli, 

This  frosty  night?" 
"  We'll  be  awake  till  reveill6, 
Which  is  Sunrise,"  say  the  Gemelli, 
"  It's  no  good  trying  to  go  to  sleep  : 
If  there's  wine  to  be  got  we'll  drink  it  deep, 

But  sleep  is  gone  to  to-night. 

But  sleep  is  gone  for  to-night. 

"  Are  .you  cold  too,  poor  Pleiads, 

This  frosty  night?" 
"  Yes,  and  so  are  the  Hyads  : 
See  us  cuddle  and  hug,"  say  the  Pleiads, 
"  All  six  in  a  ring   :    it  keeps  us  warm  : 
We  huddle  together  like  birds  in  a  storm  : 

It's  bitter  weather  to-night, 

It's  bitter  weather  to-night." 

"  W^hat  do  you  hunt,  Orion, 

This  starry  night?" 
'•  The  Ram,  the  Bull  and  the  Lion,' 
And    the  Great  Bear,"  says  Orion, 
"  With  my  starry  quiver  and  beautiful  belt 
I  am  trying  to  find  a  good  thick  pelt 
To  warm  my  shoulders  to-night, 
To  warm  my  shoulders  to-night." 


"  Did  you  hear  that,  Great  She-bear, 

This' frosty  night?" 
"  Yes,  he's  talking  of  stripping  me  bare 
Of  mv  own  big  fur,"  says  the  She-bear, 
I'm  a'fraid  of  the  man  and  his  terrible  arrow  : 
The  thought  of  it  chills  my  bones  to  the  marrow. 

And  the  frost  so  cruel  to-night ! 

And  the  frost  so  cruel  to-night  !" 

"  How  is  your  trade,  Aquarius, 

This  frosty  night?" 
"  Complaints  is  many  and  various 
And  my  feet  are  cold,"  says  Aquarius, 
"  There's  Venus  objects  to  Dolphin-scales, 
And  Mars  to  Crab-spawn  found  in  my  pails, 
And  the  pump  has  frozen  to-night, 
And  the  pump  has  frozen  to-night." 


THE  DYING  KNIGHT  AND 
THE  FAUNS 

Througii  the  dreams  of  yesternight 
My  blood  brother  great  in  fight 
I  saw  lying,  slowly  dying 
Where  the  weary  woods  were  sighing 
With  the  rustle  of  the  birches, 
With  the  quiver  of  the  larches     .     .     . 
Woodland  fauns  with  hairy  haunches 
Grin  in  wOnder  through  the  branches 
Woodland  fauns  that  know  no  fear. 
Wondering,  they  wander  near 
Munching  mushrooms  red  as  coral, 
Bunches,  too,  of  rue  and  sorrel ; 
Wonder  at  his  radiant  fairness. 
At  his  dinted,  shattered  harness, 
With  uncouth  and  bestial  sounds. 
Knowing  nought  of  war  or  wounds  : 
But  the  crimson  life-blood    oozes 
And  make  roses  of  the  daisies, 
Persian  carpets  of  the  mosses — 
Softly  now  his  spirit  passes 
As  the  bee  forsakes  the  lily, 
As  the  berry  leaves  the  holly ; 
But  the  fauns  still  think  him  living, 
And  with  bay  leaves  they  are  weaving 
Crowns  to  deck  him.     Well  they  may  ! 
He  was  worthy  of  the  Bay. 


WILLAREE 

On  the  rough  mountain  wind 

That  bltnvs  so  free 
Rides  a  httle  storm-sprite 

Whose  name  is  Willaree. 

The  fleecy  cloudlets  are  not  his, 

No  shepherd  is  he, 
For  he  drives  the  shaggy  thunderclouds 

Over  land  and  sea. 

His  home  is  on  the  mountain-top 

Where  I  love  to  be. 
Amid  grey  rocks  and  brambles 

And  the  red  rowan-tree. 

He  whistles  down  the  chimney, 

He  whistles  to  me, 
And    I  send  greeting  back  to  him 

Whistling  cheerily. 

The  great  elms  are  battling, 

W'aves  are  on  the  sea, 
Loud  roars  the  mountain-wind — 

God  rest  you,  \Villaree  ! 


THE  FACE  OF  THE 
HEAVENS 

Little  winds  in  a  hurr}'^, 
Great  winds  over  the  sky, 

Clouds  sleek  or  furry, 

Storms  that  rage  and  die, 

The  whole  cycle  of  weather 
From  calm  to  hurricane 

Of  four  gales  wroth  together, 
Thunder,  lightning,  rain. 

The  burning  sun,  snowing, 
Hailstones  pattering  down. 

Blue  skies  and  red  skies  showing, 
Skies  with  a  black  frown, 

By  these  signs  and  wonders 
You  may  tell  God's  mood  : 

He  shines,   rains,  thunders, 
But  all  His  works  are  good. 


lO 


JOLLY  YELLOW  MOON 

Oh,  now  has  faded  from  the  West 

A  sunset  red  as  wine, 
And  beast  and  bird  are  hushed  to  rest 

When  the  jolly  yellow  moon  doth  shine. 

Come  comrades,  roam  we  round  the  mead 
Where  couch  the  sleeping  kine ; 

The  breath  of  night  blows  soft  indeed, 
And  the  jolly  yellow  moon  doth  shine. 

And  step  we  slowly,  friend  with  friend, 

Let  arm  with  arm  entwine, 
And  voice  with  voice  together  blend, 

For  the  jolly  yellow  moon  hoth  shine. 

Whether  we  loudly  sing  or  soft. 

The  tune  goes  wondrous  fine; 
Our  chorus  sure  will  float  aloft 

Where  the  jolly  yellow  moon  dotii  shine. 


II 


YOUTH  AND  FOLLY 

("  Life    is    a    very    awful    thing!     You 

young  fellows  are   too  busy   being  jolly 

to     realise     the    folly     of    your     lives.'* 

— A  Charterhouse  Sermon) 

In  Chapel  often  when  I  bawl 

The  hymns,  to  show  I'm  musical, 

With  bright  eye  and  cheery  voice 

Bidding  Christian  folk  rejoice, 

Shame  be  it  said,  I've  not  a  thought 

Of  the  One  Being  whom  I  ought 

To  worship  :    with  unwitting  roar 

Other  godheads  I  adore. 

I  celebrate  the  Gods  of  Mirth 

And  Love  and  Youth  and  Springing  Earth, 

Bacchus,  beautiful,  divine. 

Gulping  down  his  heady  wine, 

Dear  Pan  piping  in  his  hollow, 

Fiery-headed  King  Apollo 

And  rugged  Atlas  all  aloof 

Holding  up  the  purple  roof. 

I  have  often  felt  and  sung, 

"  It's  a  good  thing  to  be  young  : 

Though  the  preacher  says  it's  folly. 

Is  it  foolish  to  be  jolly?" 

I  have  often  prayed  in  fear, 

"  Let  me  never  grow  austere; 

Let  me  never  think,  I  pray. 

Too  much  about  Judgment  Day  ; 

Never,  never  feel  in  Spring, 

'  Life's  a  very  awful  thing  !'  " 

Then  I  realize  and  start 

And  curse  my  arrogant  young  heart, 

Bind  it  over  to  confess 

Its  horrible  ungodliness. 

Set  myself  penances,  and  sigh 

That  I  was  born  in  sin,  and  try 

To    find  the  whole  world  vanity. 


12 


GHOST  MUSIC 

Gloomy  and  bare  the  organ-loft, 
Bent-backed  and  blind  the  organist. 
From  rafters  looming  shadowy, 
From  the  pipes'  tuneful  company, 
Drifted  together  drowsily, 
Innumerable,  formless,  dim, 
The  ghosts  of  long-dead  melodies, 
Of  anthems,  stately,  thunderous, 
Of  Kyries  shrill  and  tremulous  : 
In  melancholy  drowsy-sweet 
They  huddled  there  in  harmony. 
Like  bats  at  noontide  rafter-hung. 


13 


FREE  VERSE 

I  now  delight, 

In  spite 

Of  the  might 

And  the  right 

Of  classic  tradition, 

In  writing 

And  reciting 

Straight  ahead. 

Without  let  or  omission, 

Just  any  little  rhyme 

In  any  little  time 

That  runs  in  my  head  : 

Because,  I've  said, 

My  rhymes  no  longer  shall  stand  arrayed 

Like  Prussian  soldiers  on  parade 

That  march, 

Stiff  as  starch, 

Foot  to  foot. 

Boot  to  boot. 

Blade  to  blade, 

Button  to  button. 

Cheeks  and  chops  and  chins  like  mutton. 

No!    No! 

My  rh}'mes  must  go 

Turn  'ee,  twist  'ee, 

Twinkling,  frosty. 

Will-o'-the-wisp-like,  misty, 

Rhymes  I  will  make 

Like  Keats  and  Blake 

And  Christina  Rossetti, 

With  run  and  ripple  and  shake. 

How  petty 

To  take 

A  merry  little  rhyme 

In  a  jolly  little  time 

And  poke  it, 

And  choke  it, 


H 


Change  it,  arrange  it, 

Straight-lace  it,  deface  it, 

Pleat  it  with  pleats, 

Sheet  it  with  sheets 

Of  empty  conceits, 

And  chop  and  chew, 

And  hack  and  hew. 

And  weld  it  into  a  uniform  stanza. 

And  evolve  a  neat, 

Complacent,  complete. 

Academic  extravaganza  ! 


15 


IN  THE  WILDERNESS 

Christ  of  his  gentleness 
Thirsting  and  hungering 
Walked  in  the  wilderness; 
Soft  words  of  grace  He  spoke 
Unto  lost  desert-folk 
That  listened  wondering. 
He  heard  the  bitterns  call 
From  ruined  palace-wall, 
Answered  them   brotherly. 
He  held  communion 
With  the  she-pelican 
Of  lonely  piety. 
Basilisk,  cockatrice, 
Flocked  to  His  homilies, 
With  mail  of  dread  device, 
Whh   monstrous  barbed  stings, 
With  eager  dragon-eyes; 
Great  rats  on  leather  wings 
And  poor  blind  broken  things. 
Foul  in  their  miseries. 
And  ever  with  Him  went, 
Of  all  His  wanderings 
Comrade,  with   ragged  coat, 
Gaunt  ribs — poor  innocent — 
Bleeding  foot,  burning  throat, 
The   guileless   old  scape-goat; 
For  fort}^  nights  and  days 
Followed  in  Jesus'  ways, 
Sure  guard  behind  Him  kept, 
Tears  like  a  lover  wept. 


i6 


OH,  AND  OH  ! 

Oh,  and  oh  ! 

The  world's  a  muddle, 

The  clouds  are  untidy, 

Moon  lopsidey, 

Shining  in  a  puddle. 

Down  dirty  streets  in  stench  and  smoke 

The  pale  townsfolk 

Crawl  and  kiss  and  cuddle, 

In  doorways  hug  and  huddle; 

Loutish  he 

And   sluttish  she 

In  loathsome  love  together  press 

And  unbelievable  ugliness. 

These  spiders  spin  a  loathly  woof ! 

I  walk  aloof, 

Head  burning  and  heart  snarling. 

Tread  feverish  quick; 

^y  love  is  sick; 

Far  away  lives  my  darling. 


17 


CHERRY-TIME 

Cherries  of  the  night  are  riper 

Than  the  cherries  pluckt  at  noon  : 
Gather  to  your  fairy  piper 

When  he  pipes  his  magic  tune  : 

Merry,  merry, 

Take  a  cherry. 

Mine  are  sounder, 

Mine  are  rounder, 

Mine  are  sweeter 

For  the  eater 

Under  the  moon. 
And  you'll  be  fairies  soon. 

In  the  cherry  pluckt  at  night, 

With  the  dew  of  summer  swelling. 
There's  a  juice  of  pure  delight, 

Cool,  dark,  sweet,  divinely  smelling. 

Merry,  merry, 

Take  a  cherry. 

Mine  are  sounder. 

Mine  are  rounder, 

Mine  are  sweeter 

For  the  eater 

In  the  moonlight. 
And  you'll  be  fairies  quite. 

When  I  sound  tlie  fairy  call, 

Gather  here  in  silent  meeting, 
Chin  to  knee  on  the  orchard  wall, 
Cooled  with  dew  and  cherries  eating. 

Merry,  merry, 

Take  a  cherry. 

Mine  are  sounder. 

Mine  are  rounder. 

Mine  are  sweeter 

For  the  eater 

"\^^hen  the  dews  fall. 
And  you'll  be  fairies  all. 


i8 


PART  II.— Poems  Written 
Before  La  Bassee  —   1915 


THE  SHADOW  OF  DEATH 

Here's  an  end  to  my  art ! 

I  must  die  and  I  know  it, 
With  battle  murder  at  my  heart — 

Sad  death  for  a  poet ! 

Oh  my  songs  never  sung, 

And  my  plays  to  darkness  blown  ! 
I  am  St  ill  so  young,  so  young, 

And  life  was  my  own. 

Some  bad  fairy  stole 

The  baby  I   nursed  : 
Was  this  my  pretty  little  soul, 

This  changeling  accursed? 

To  fight  and  kill  is  wrong — 
To  stay  at  home  wronger : 

Oh  soul,  little  play  and  song, 
I  may  father  no  longer ! 

Here's  an  end  to  my  art ! 

I  must  die  and  I  know^  it, 
With  battle  murder  at  my  heart — 

Sad  death  for  a  poet ! 


31 


THE  MORNING  BEFORE  THE  BATTLE 

To-day,  the  fight  :     my  end  is  very  soon, 

And  sealed  the  warrant  limiting  my  hours  : 
I  knew  it  walking  yesterday  at  noon 

Down  a  deserted  garden  full  of  flowers. 
.     .     Carelessly  sang,  pinned  roses  on  my  breast, 

Reached  for  a  cherry-bunch — and  then,   then,   Death 
Blew  through  the  garden  from  the  North  and  East 

And  blighted  every  beauty  with  chill  breath. 

I  looked,  and  ah,  my  wraith  before  me  stood, 
His  head  all  battered  in  by  violent  blows  : 

The  fruit  between  my  lips  tO'  clotted  blood 
Was  transubstantiate,  and  the  pale  rose 

Smelt  sickly,  till  it  seemed  through  a  swift  tear-flood 
That  dead  men  blossomed  in  the  garden-close. 


LIMBO 

After  a  week  spent  under  raining  skies, 

In  horror,  mud  and  sleeplessness,  a  week 
Of  bursting  shells,  of  blood  and  hideous  cries 

And  the  ever-watchful  sniper  :    where  the  reek 
Of  death  offends  the  living  .   .  .  but  poor  dead 

Can't  sleep,  must  lie  awake  with  the  horrid  sound 
That  roars  and  whirs  and  rattles  overhead 

All  day,  all  night,  and  jars  and  tears  the  ground ; 
When  rats  run,  big  as  kittens  :    to  and  fro 

They  dart,  and  scuffle  with  their  horrid  fare, 
And  then  one  night  relief  comes,  and  we  go 

Miles  back  into  the  sunny  cornland  where 
Babies  like  tickling,  and  where  tall  white  horses 
Draw  the  plough  leisurely  in  quiet  courses. 


23 


THE  TRENCHES 

{Heard  in  the   Ranks) 

Scratches  in  the  dirt? 

No,  that  sounds  much  too  nice. 

Oh,  far  too  nice. 

Seams,  rather,  of  a  Greyback  Shirt, 

And  we're  the  Httle  lice 

Wriggling  about  in  them  a  week  or  two, 

Till  one  day,  suddenly,  from  the  blue 

Something  bloody  and  big  will  come 

Like — ^v^^atch  this  fingernail  and  thumb  !- 

Squash  !    and  he  needs  no  twice. 


24 


(Nursery  Memories) 

I.— THE  FIRST  FUNERAL 

{The  first  corpse  1  saw  was  on  the 
German  wires,  and  couldn't  be  buried) 

The  whole  field  was  so  smelly ; 

We  smelt  the  poor  dog  tlrst  : 
His  horrid  swollen  belly 

Looked  just  like  going  burst. 

His  fur  was  most  untidy ; 

He  hadn't  any  eyes. 
It  happened  on  Good  Friday 

And  there  was  lots  of  flies. 

And  then  I  felt  the  coldest 

I'd  ever  felt,  and  sick, 
But  Rose,   'cause  she's  the  oldest, 

Dared  poke  him  with  her  stick. 

He  felt  quite  soft  and  horrid  : 
The  flies  buzzed  round  his  head 

And  settled  on  his  forehead  : 

Rose  whispered  :    "  That  dog's  dead. 

"  You  bury  all  dead  people. 

When  they're  quite  really  dead, 

Round  churches  with  a  steeple  : 
Let's  bury  this,"  Rose  said. 

"  And  let's  put  mint  all  round  it 

To  hide  the  nasty  smell." 
I  went  to  look  and  found  it — 

Lots,  growing  near  the  well. 

We  poked  him  through  the  clover 

Into  a  hole,  and  then 
We  threw  brown  earth  right  over 

And  said  :     "  Poor    dog,  Amen  !" 


25 


(Nursery  Memories) 

II.— THE  ADVENTURE 

(Suggested  by  the  claivi  of  a  -machine-gun  team  to  have 
annihilated  an  enemy  zvire  party:  no  bodies  were  found 
however) 

To-day  I  killed  a  tiger  near  my  shack 
Among  the  trees  :    at  least,  it  must  have  been, 
Because  his  hide  was  yellow,  striped  with  black, 
And  his  eyes  were  green. 

I  crept  up  close  and  slung  a  pointed  stone 
With  all  my  might  :     T  must  have  hit  his  head. 
For  there  he  died  without  a  twitch  or  groan. 
And  he  lay  there  dead. 

I  expect  that  he'd  escaped  from  a  Wild  Beast  Show 
By  pulling  down  his  cage  with  an  angry  tear; 
He'd  killed  and  wounded  all  the  people — so 
He  was  hiding  there. 

I  brought  my  brother  up  as  quick's  I  could  , 
But  there  was  nothing  left  when  he  did  come  : 
The  tiger's  mate  was  watching  in  the  wood 
And  she'd  dragged  him  home. 

But,  anyhow,  I  killed  him  by  the  shack, 
'Cause — listen  ! — when  we  hunted  in  the  wood 
My  brother  found  my  pointed  stone  all  black 
With  the  clotted  blood. 


26 


(Nursery  Memories) 

III.— I  HATE  THE  MOON 

{After  a  moonlight  patrol  near  the  Brickstacks) 

I  hate  the  Moon,  though  it  makes  most  people  glad, 
And  thev  giggle  and  talk  of  silvery  beams — you  know  ! 

But  she  says  the  look  of  the  Moon  drives  people  mad, 
And  that's  the  thing  that  always  frightens  me  so. 

I  hate  it  worst  when  it's  cruel  and  round  and  bright, 
And  vou  can't  make  out  the  marks  on  its  stupid  face, 

Except  when  you  shut  your  eyelashes,  and  all  night 
The  sky  looks  green,  and  the  world's  a  horrible  place. 

I  like  the  stars,  and  especially  the  Big  Bear 

And  the  W  star,  and  one  like  a  diamond  ring, 

But  I  hate  the  ^loon  and  its  horrible  stony  stare, 

And  I  know  one  day  it'll  do  me  some  dreadful  thing. 


27 


BIG  WORDS 

"  I've  whined  of  coming  death,  but  now,  no  more  ! 
It's  weak  and  most  ungracious.    For,  say  I, 
Though  still  a  boy  if  years  are  counted,  why  ! 
I've  lived  those  years  from  roof  to  cellar-floor, 
And  feel,  like  grey-beards  touching  their  fourscore, 
Ready,  so  soon  as  the  need  comes,  to  die  : 

And  I'm  satisfied. 
For  winning  confidence  in  those  quiet  days 
Of  peace,  poised  sickly  on  the  precipice  side 
Of  Lliwedd  crag  by  Snowdon,  and  in  war 
Finding  it  firmlier  with  me  than  before ; 
Winning  a  faith  in  the  wisdom  of  God's  ways 
That  once  I  lost,  finding  it  justified 
Even  in  this  chaos;    winning  love  that  stays 
And  warms  the  heart  like  wine  at  Easter-tide ; 

Having  earlier  tried 
False  loves  in  plenty ;    oh  !     my  cup  of  praise 
Brims  over,  and  I  know  I'll  feel  small  sorrow, 
Confess  no  sins  and  make  no  weak  delays 
If  death  ends  all  and  I  must  die  to-morrow." 

But  on  the  firestep,  waiting  to  attack, 

He  cursed,  prayed,  sweated,  wished  the  proud  words  back. 


2>- 


THE  DEAD  FOX  HUNTER 

We  found  the  little  captain  at  the  head ; 

His  men  lay  well  aligned. 
We  touched  his  hand — stone-cold — and  he  was  dead, 

And  they,  all  dead  behind. 
Had  never  reached  their  goal,  but  they  died  well; 
They  charged  in  line,  and  in  the  same  line  fell. 

The  well-known  rosy  colours  of  his  face 

Were  almost  lost  in  grey. 
We  saw  that,  dying  and  in  hopeless  case. 

For  others'  sake  that  day 
He'd  smothered  all  rebellious  groans  :     in  death 
His  fingers  were  tight  clenched  between  his  teeth. 

For  those  who  live  uprightly  and  die  true 

Heaven  has  no  bars  or  locks. 
And  serves  all  taste.   .   .  Or  what's  for  him  to  do 

Up  there,  but  hunt  the  fox  ? 
Angelic  choirs?     Xo,  Justice  must  provide 
For  one  who  rode  straight  and  at  hunting  died. 

So  if  Heaven  had  no  Hunt  before  he  came, 

Why,  it  must  find  one  now  : 
If  any  shirk  and  doubt  they  know  the  game, 

There's  one  to  teach  them  how  : 
And  the  whole  host  of  Seraphim  complete 
Must  jog  in  scarlet  to  his  opening  Meet. 


29 


IT'S  A  QUEER  TIME 

It's  hard  to  know  if  you're  alive  or  dead 

When  steel  and  fire  go  roaring  through  your  head. 

One  moment  you'll  be  crouching  at  your  gun 
Traversing,  mowing  heaps  down  half  in  fun  : 
l^he  next,  you  choke  and  clutch  at  your  right  breast 
No  time  to  think — leave  all — and  off  you  go  .   .   . 
To  Treasure  Island  where  the  Spice  winds  blow, 
To  lovely  groves  of  mango,  quince  and  lime — 
Breathe  no  goodbye,  but  ho,  for  the  Red  West ! 
It's  a  queer  time. 

You're  charging  madly  at  them  yelling  "  Fag!" 
When  somehow  something  gives  and  your  feet  drag. 
You  fall  and  strike  your  head ;    yet  feel  no  pain 
And  find  .  .   .  you're  digging  tunnels  through  the  hay 
In  the  Big  Barn,  'cause  it's  a  rainy  day. 
Oh  springy  hay,  and  lovely  beams  to  climb  ! 
You're  back  in  the  old  sailor  suit  again. 
It's  a  queer  time. 

Or  vou'll  be  dozing  safe  in  your  dug-out — 
A  great  roar — the  trench  shakes  and  falls  about — 
You're  struggling,  gasping,  struggling,  then  .  .  .  hulio  ! 
Elsie  comes  tripping  gaily  down  the  trench, 
Hanky  to  nose— that  lyddite  makes  a  stench — 
Getting  her  pinafore  all  over  grime. 
Funny  !    because  she  died  ten  years  ago  ! 
It's  a  queer  time. 

The  trouble  is,  things  happen  much  too  quick ; 
Up  jump  the  Bosches,  rifles  thump  and  click, 
You  stagger,  and  the  whole  scene  fades  away  : 
Even  good  Christians  don't  like  passing  straight 
From  Tipperary  or  their  Hymn  of  Hate 
To  Alleluiah-chanting,  and  the  chime 
Of  golden  harps  .  .  .  and  .  .  .  I'm  not  well  to-day  .  •  • 
It's  a  queer  time. 


30 


1915 

I've  watched  the  Seasons  passing  slow,  so  slow 

In  the  fields  between  La  Bassee  and  Bethune; 

Primroses  and  the  first  warm  day  of  Spring, 

Red  poppy  floods  of  June, 

August,  and  yellowing  Autumn,  so 

To  Winter  nights  knee-deep  in  mud  or  snow. 

And  you've  been  everything. 

Dear,  you've  been  everything  that  I  most  lack 

In  these  soul-deadening  trenches — pictures,  books, 

Music,  the  quiet  of  an  English  wood, 

Beautiful  comrade-looks, 

The  narrow,  bouldered  mountain-track. 

The  broad,  full-bosomed  ocean,  green  and  black. 

And  Peace,  and  all  that's  good. 


OVER  THE  BRAZIER 

What  life  to  lead  and  where  to  go 

After  the  War,  after  the  \A'ar? 

We'd  often  talked  this  way  before 
But  I  still  see  the  brazier  glow 
That  April  night,  still  feel  the  smoke 
And  stifling  pungency  of  burning  coke. 

I'd  thought:     "  A  cottage  in  the  hills, 
North  Wales,  a  cottage  full  of  books. 
Pictures  and  brass  and  cosy  nooks 
And  comfortable  broad  window-sills. 
Flowers  in  the  garden,  walls  all  white, 
I'd  live  there  peacefully,  and  dream  and  write." 

But  Willy  said  "  No,  Home's  no  good 
Old  England's  quite  a  hopeless  place 
I've  lost  all  feeling  for  my  race  : 

But  France  has  given  me  heart  and  blood 

Enough  to  last  me  all  my  life 

I'm  off  to  Canada  with  my  wee  wife. 

*•  Come  with  us,  Mac,  old  thing,"  but  Mac 
Drawled  :    "  No,  a  Coral  Isle  for  me, 
A  warm  green  jewel  in  the  South  Sea. 
There's  merit  in  a  lumber  shack 
And  labour  is  a  grand  thing  .  .   .  but 
Give  me  my  hot  beach  and  my  cocoanut." 

So  then  we  built  and  stocked  for  Willy 

A  log-hut,  and  for  Mac  a  calm 

Rockabye  cradle  on  a  palm — 
Idyllic  dwellings — but  this  silly 
Mad  AVar  has  now  wrecked  both,  and  what 
Better  hopes  has  my  little  cottage  got  ? 

July,  1915- 


32 


RETURN  TO:       CIRCULATION  DEPARTMENT 
198  Main  Stacks 


LOAN  PERIOD     1 
Home  Use 

2 

3 

4 

5 

6 

ALL  BOOKS  MAY  BE  RECALLED  AFTER  7  DAYS. 

Renewals  and  Recharges  may  be  made  4  days  prior  to  the  due  date. 
Books  may  be  renewed  by  calling  642-3405. 


FORM  NO.  DD6 
50M    5-02 


DUE  AS  STAMPED  BELOW. 

APR  9  A  2004 

r*r  R   ft  't  e.yjw9 

UNIVERSITY  OF  CALIFORNIA,  BERKELEY 
Berkeley,  California  94720-6000 


»»    M*'^- 


^0  lb  cci 


1l?}i-A-M39(^ 


i>  1    II  mi-ammwsm*r«v^ittlniktiifhmiSi 


'^79290 


UNIVERSITY  OF  CALIFORNIA  LIBRARY